by Rob Callahan
Often I use this space to tell the stories of workers who have stood up for themselves to improve their jobs. I’ve tried in my columns to convey the principles and passions that motivate folks working in post-production to join together in order to insist upon better terms from their employers, and to describe the chutzpah that carries them on to victory. It occurred to me, though, that those stories were much better told in these individuals’ own words rather than in mine. Organizing is all about taking action to achieve a real voice in one’s workplace. Better, then, that we hear the tales of organizing rendered in the first-person voices of those who have done it for themselves and for one another.
From this idea emerged a documentary project we have titled Post, Proud. The documentary short, which will be released online for Labor Day weekend, is drawn from interviews of a number of veterans of Local 700 and IATSE organizing campaigns. It is the story of bold brothers and sisters whose pride in their craft, pride in themselves, and commitment to one another empowered them to make dramatic change in their working lives.
For this issue’s column, I present a preview of Post, Proud through excerpted quotations from the interviews. Read what Local 700 strike alumni have to say about their own experiences organizing:
“This industry is great, and we all get to do what we love for a living, which is really rare. But the downside is that everyone is freelance, and you don’t get those normal securities that you would in a 9-to-5 job.” – Kristin Derella (Assistant Editor, Naked & Afraid)
“We want to have a career in this industry. And it’s very hard to have a career as a freelancer when [non-union employers] do not give pension and health care. And I think, for longevity, I really want to see pension and health care, because I can say, ‘This is my career and I have a future.’ Wanting pension and health care is not something I think is a luxury; I think it’s something that all people who work in America should get.” – Jimmy Tartanella (Editor, Last Comic Standing)
“We work really hard in this industry. I love it, but, as hard as we work, we deserve to get a fair wage, we deserve to get medical and health care, we deserve to have a retirement plan.” – La-Aja Hernandez (Assistant Editor, Face Off)
“The assistant editor is key because we’re the ones who basically keep the wheels moving. There should be more appreciation for how crucial the role of an assistant editor really is.” – Brandon Silverman (Assistant Editor, Hot Set and Last Comic Standing)
“[Organizing is] the scariest thing I’ve ever done professionally, but it is easily the thing I’m the most proud of. And that includes a few nominations for various awards. Because, yes, we’d all like to win a pretty little trophy, but this made people’s lives better. This made my friends’ lives better; this made my life better.” – Molly Shock (Editor, Swamp People)
“When you get together and…you collectively decide something, the power you have…it’s huge. And it’s so much more powerful than your voice alone in your edit room, complaining about whatever you’re complaining about.” – Tim Wilsbach (Editor, Hot Set)
“To stand up for what you know to be right, that’s the best feeling in the world. That’s better than a pat on the back, or some pizza at 8 o’clock at night when somebody’s trying to get you to work extra hours. When you stand up for what you believe in — and all of your colleagues respect what you’ve done — that’s invaluable.” – Jay Conklin (Editor, Hot Set)
These professionals work in darkened rooms rather than beneath Klieg lights. Paparazzi do not hound them. But the sisters and brothers who stand up to lift standards of employment for folks working in post-production are stars to us. I’m excited that this documentary will give them their star turn.